Walking through her lush green foliage adorned with bird baths, leaf molds and concrete statue bunny rabbits, Jane Davis began pruning overgrown vines from her home garden.
On top of maintaining her own garden, Jane also works with local garden clubs to help educate the community about gardening techniques and design.
A Missouri native, Jane has been a member of the Central Missouri Master Gardeners since 2004 where she gained emeritus status in 2014 and has been a member of the Bittersweet Garden Club since 2010. Her love for gardening began as a little girl when a kind neighbor let her pick flowers he had grown at his home in Festus, Missouri.
“Growing up we had a neighbor (he was the superintendent of the local public school district) who had a garden and he would let me come over and dig around and pick flowers from his garden,” Jane said. “I learned a lot about plants and soil from him, as well as what snakes to touch and which ones to leave alone. Years later, when he passed away. I was given a pretty rock from his garden, which I still have on my desk at work. It’s a great reminder of his gentle nature and passion for teaching, and patience with a little girl who was not adverse to digging up worms and asking lots of questions.”
Jane later enrolled at the University of Missouri as an art major but then graduated with a home economic degree in education.
After college she became a teacher until she got a “wild hair” and moved out to Denver, Colorado, where she met her husband and lived for 10 years. With her husband being a marine mechanic, they decided to move back to Missouri near Lake of the Ozarks to be closer to large boats and the water. Having both changed jobs after moving back, the couple then moved a little farther from the lake to Eldon. Their home on the remote piece of property is surrounded by garden beds decorated with repurposed antiques and concrete garden art, some of which Jane has crafted herself.
“I’ve always been a crafter,” she said. “I like to make things, I like to play around with different ideas and different media. I really like working in concrete, of course it’s heavy and so you have to kind of take that into consideration whenever you make something. But I like concrete statuary a lot so I really got into using art in my gardens just to add that extra touch,” she said.” You’re getting beautiful texture and color from your plants but I just felt like I needed something else in there too, so I have different kinds of themes in mind whenever I put things in my garden, and I use my own work as well as concrete statuary that I buy.”
In her spare time, Jane also helps maintain the Master Gardeners River City Gardens at Bill Quibbs Commons, which is located across the Missouri River and is open year-round. Gardeners can see themed garden beds such as the Lewis and Clark Garden that has native plants reminiscent of when Lewis and Clark traveled through the state, a medicine wheel garden that shows a variety of herbs and the turf garden that gives visitors a good idea of what grass they may want to plant. It also shows good examples of how to maintain raised flower beds and an active compost pile. A popular time to see the gardens is during the annual River City Fall Festival in October.
Jane currently teaches some of her gardening and crafting creativity at the Master Gardeners annual spring seminar at Carver Farm in Jefferson City.
“It’s a spring gardening seminar and it’s usually end of February/first part of March when everybody is just tired of winter and they’re ready for something springy, something that tells them we’re going to have warm weather soon,” Jane said. “So I have taught classes, mostly craft classes, things that they can make and take.”
In past classes, Jane has taught how to make leaf castings and hypertufa containers, which are made of combined materials that are lighter in weight than concrete. This year students learned how to create garden signs by repurposing the bases of wooden spools and crafted planters that resemble a fairy cottage.
“We try to come up with something different every year, which can be a bit of a challenge because the sessions are usually only an hour in length,” Jane said. “So trying to get something prepared and made and out the door can be difficult depending on what it is. Both of the classes I taught this year they had to finish at home, but they knew going in that there just wasn’t going to be enough time to do that.”
Jane said it is fun to teach those classes because everybody is so interested in learning how to do something. They may have seen it done before and know they can do it, but they may not have time to gather all the stuff to tackle the project on their own. Jane provides all the supplies for them to complete the project, which is part of the class fee.
“I think that they really appreciate that because that way if they make it and they think, ‘Oh you know I’m not so excited about that after all,’ then they don’t have to say, ‘Gosh I wish I wouldn’t have gone out and spent the money on all these supplies,’” she said.
Her ultimate dream is to have a TV craft show, which she says will never happen, but she also hopes to one day find a local space for more classes.
“I have often thought about periodically renting a space somewhere and teaching some classes and setting some things up because not only do I enjoy teaching, but I have friends who do wonderful things and have great talents but they don’t have a really good place to teach either,” she said. “I think Jefferson City in particular could really support something like that.”
Jane, along with other members of the Bittersweet Garden Club, recently showed off some of Jefferson City’s best home gardens during the annual Bittersweet Garden Club Tour in June. Each year, the guest tours five different homes’ gardens, some in earlier stages of development while others have been established for years. Homeowners as well as garden club members are also present at each stop to answer any questions about plants and gardening techniques. This allows guests to get their own ideas of what to incorporate in their gardens while also having a chance to see some popular garden trends.
One trend she has noticed is gardeners planting garden pathways. It’s the idea of making a pathway you can’t see the final destination to, but it creates an enjoyable mystery as you walk alongside beautiful plants and colorful flowers.
Another trend Jane suggests is the repurposing of items such as galvanized buckets.
“Even the old ones that are kind of dented are easy to paint and drill holes into the bottom,” she said. “Then you can actually put soil in them and plant in them or you can put a pot that already has a plant inside and they make a great look and they hold up to the weather because they do not deteriorate or rust.
“I love to see galvanized stuff and a lot of people are going to use the large galvanized watering troughs that you can buy at some of the farm and home stores and they use those for raised vegetable beds.”
Jane also suggests repurposing items to use as focal points in a garden such as gluing stained glass pieces to an old window to create a colorful art piece or painting a base of a wooden spools to make a garden sign.
Although Jane has years of experience with crafting and gardening she is always learning new things from her friends and encourages others to not to hesitate when trying new things.
“If you see something, don’t be discouraged because you think it’s too hard and you can’t do it, because anybody can do that stuff,” she said. “All you need is maybe a little bit of instruction or you just need to have your list of materials and it’s easy to do.
1 plastic plant drainer
25 pound bag vinyl cement patch
mosaic stones or glass gems
craft adhesive glue
plastic tub or container to mix
If doing this project inside, cover the counter space and other areas you don’t want to risk getting concrete on and put on protective gloves (children may also want to wear a dust mask).
1. Spray the plastic plant drainer with cooking oil.
2. Pour roughly a half a bag of vinyl cement patch into plastic tub or container. Mix water with the concrete, a little at a time, until it has the consistency similar to molding clay, then pour concrete into the drainer to make your mold.
3. Smooth out the top of the mold until you have a flat surface. Note: Do not rinse hands or wash bucket in sink in order not to get concrete down the drain).
4. Begin by lightly putting your gems or decoration on top (you may want to change gloves or you can lightly oil hands in order not to get concrete on top of the stones). When you have the stones where you want them, lightly press them down into the mold.
5. Let the stepping stone sit until concrete is a light gray. If necessary, set a paper towel on top of the stepping stone if it begins to produce a slight bit of water.
6. When your stepping stone has dried, remove it from the plastic drainer. If gems did not stick to the concrete you can use craft adhesive glue (Amazing Goop or E6000) to stick them to the concrete. If the edge of the stepping stone is rough, you can file down those areas by rubbing a brick against them, or using a metal file.
7. You can also opt to add grout on top the mold to fill in the spaces between the stones.
8. Let the stone sit for at least 48 hours before placing it in a garden or using as a table centerpiece.